Danedri Thompson
Gardner will continue its partnership with the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corporation (SWJCEDC) to the tune of $35,000.
During a Jan. 5 meeting, council members approved an agreement that will provide SWJCEDC $35,000. In return, SWJCEDC will provide support to the city in marketing the community to potential businesses, and initiate activities so the city is well-represented in commercial and industrial real estate markets. Under terms in the 2015 contract, Gardner will pay $10,000 more this year than last.
SWJCEDC was created 22 years ago as a cooperative between New Century AirCenter, Gardner, Edgerton and the school district. The organization also includes 93 private sector members.
“Our mission is to assist in the business development in the area,” Tom Reiderer, SWJCEDC president, told members of the city council.
Gardner resident Lee Moore told council he had concerns about the contract.
“Namely with the agreement itself,” he said. “It seems really light in the performance standards and reporting requirements. It’s really open.”
Under terms of previous contracts, city officials have requested regular updates from SWJCEDC, including how many businesses the organization has spoken to about locating nearby and what those businesses’ needs are.
The 2015 contract does not have specific reporting requirements. Reiderer said that’s because the city just completed its economic development plan.
“The idea is to work with what the city wants us to do,” Reiderer said. “The plan is to work with the city and have measurable goals.”
Reiderer listed some of the businesses SWJCEDC has assisted in bringing to Gardner. He cited QuikTrip and the Coleman warehouse as an example.
“We worked with the QuikTrip people for two or three years just to let them know that Gardner was a good market for them,” Reiderer said.
Much of the work the SWJCEDC does is confidential, until a business fully decides to locate in town, he explained.
Council member Kristina Harrison said the city doesn’t always get the information it needs from the SWJCEDC. For example, she said she knows the organization receives lots of inquiries – businesses looking for 1,000 square-feet of industrial space or other things.
Harrison said when those organizations decide not to locate in Gardner, she’d like to know why.
“I would like to know why they didn’t give us a second look,” she said. “That’s the actual information that we need that we may get in some individual conversations, but I don’t think we have a good way to get that and kind of pull that all together.”
Council member Steve Shute said he had problems with the contract between the city and the SWJCEDC as well.
“I have a bit of an issue signing a contract with no defined measurables,” he said.
Despite misgivings of some council members, a unanimous council agreed to the contract. City administrator Cheryl Harrison-Lee said she will work with the SWJCEDC to define measurables for future reports from the organization to the city.